Review Late-night jazz at LSO St Luke's

LSO Jazz at St Lukes performance

Miriam Gillinson is enlightened and delighted by a late-night jazz session at the beautiful converted church St Luke's in east London, curated by Mark-Anthony Turnage as part of his LSO residency and featuring improvisations by pianist Gwilym Simcock and bassist John Patitucci.

Rating 4

Purple light streams across exposed brickwork. Sheets of glass encase crumbling pillars. A traditional stage - not unlike that at the Barbican - is surrounded by softly lit tables, where an excited audience drinks and chatters.

St Luke's Church in east London, restored by the LSO almost a decade ago, is a majestic venue that manages not to intimidate. There's actually something a little sexy about this modernised 18th-century church. It's glamorous yet relaxed and, as such, is an ideal venue for a late-night jazz session.  

The night kicks off with a low-key improv session between pianist Gwilym Simcock and bassist John Patitucci, both also composers. The two perform their own music, which lends the session an open and honest air. It's a bit like eavesdropping on a heartfelt chat between old friends.

'Antics' is packed with so much energy that Simcock struggles to remain seated

Perhaps it's down to the personal nature of these compositions but the music feels exceptionally tangible and lively, pulsing with images just out of reach. Patitucci's 'Valentine' is a wonderfully inquisitive and emotional piece.  Simcock's 'Antics' is equally expressive; persistent and giddy and packed with so much energy that Simcock struggles to remain seated. The music jangles like a rainy Sunday afternoon and we can almost see a kid tapping at the window, desperate to get outside and play.

Rain also trickles through Simcock's new composition, 'Cumbrian Thaw', a chamber concerto written specifically for the night. It's initially a tad tricksy. Perhaps Simcock was a little distracted, trying to set the LSO strings a challenge worthy of their skills. But Simcock's tumbling solos are as honest and engaging as ever.

The night closes with Mark-Anthony Turnage's, 'A Prayer Out of Stillness', originally written for Patitucci in 2007. Strings swoon ominously against bold double bass and it feels like Patitucci and Turnage are searching for answers. The switch from double bass to bass guitar in the central two movements only adds a deeper melancholy to this journey.

It is a thoughtful and probing piece, which allows great space for one's own ideas and emotions. This is music that emboldens, entertains and enlightens; you couldn't ask for anything more. 

Miriam Gillinson reviews for Time Out, Metro and The Ham & High. She blogs for The Guardian and scouts for scripts for Sonia Friedman Productions and Playful Productions.

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